Despite shared experiences, the COVID transition may stir up conflict and make even close relationships feel divisive. With so many people feeling the impact of this crisis, we may notice individuals isolating, acting defensively, or behaving in ways that seem confusing. Without professional training, it may be difficult to know how to address our loved ones in crisis, especially if we are suffering and processing our own emotions at the same time.
Furthermore, we are no longer seeing all of our loved ones regularly in person, and this can make it harder to feel connected to one another or see the ‘reason’ for the person’s behavior.
Here are a few ideas to remember when supporting loved ones during this difficult time.
- The simple acknowledgement of suffering can be empowering in times of crisis. Although it might be tempting to assure someone everything will be alright, this can feel invalidating and unrealistic. Appropriate responses to loved ones in need of support might include, “I can hear how upset you are. I am so sorry this is happening,” or “I completely understand why you are afraid. This is really scary.”
- Empathy and compassion may be all that we can offer in a time where resources are scarce, survival feels questionable, and the return to “normal” is unknown. It is okay to admit that you do not have the solutions, and that you wish circumstances were different. For most, just being seen and understood can be comforting.
- Another thing to remember while supporting others is not to tell them how they should feel. The experience of trauma is unique and unpredictable. Being supportive to loved ones means creating a safe space for them to bring whatever they feel without judgement.
- Lastly, being supportive never starts with an “at least.” For example, “At least you are in good health.” Although circumstance can always be worse, minimizing someone’s distress and rational fears can cause significant emotional damage. Even if someone’s suffering is perceived as being “less than” someone else’s, validating a loved one’s perspective is necessary when being supportive.
If your loved one is struggling, make sure to check in every once in a while to see how they are doing. Even if it is just a short text, email, or quick video chat, staying in touch can help ease everyone’s anxiety.
In times of crisis, we should all be prepared to support loved ones however we can. Referring loved ones to seek professional mental health can be a good option for those who need more support than you can offer, and if someone already has an established relationship with a counselor or psychiatrist, regular appointments are as important now as ever. Many mental health professionals are able to meet clients in person by limiting how many appointments are in the office at any given time, or meet with clients using virtual resources, a technique we refer to as Teletherapy.
Grace Counseling is offering Teletherapy services as well as offering in-person appointments. Suzanne Cooper, MA is a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate in our offices and can help you through this tough, unprecedented time. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment, click here to request for one of our therapists to speak with you, or call (720) 489-8555 and we can get you scheduled.